Urban Farming for Beginners: Cultivating Shoots

by Rae Steinbach:
"Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course."

The way in which average Americans live is changing. Trends indicate more and more people are leaving rural areas to live in cities and urban regions instead. Census data confirms this: approximately 80% of Americans now live in and around cities.

Those people still need food. Unfortunately, shipping food from rural farms to urban areas is costly. It can also substantially deplete resources. That’s why urban farms have continued to grow in popularity.

Urban farms are valuable because they provide city-dwellers with reliable local food sources. This reduces the various costs involved in shipping food in from other regions. Additionally, innovations such as hydroponics and aquaponics have substantially improved urban farming methods in recent years. You can use oscillating saw blades or even an electric chainsaw to make a DIY system, but they’re also relatively easy to find online if you’re willing to spend a bit of money.

A focus on microgreens has also boosted the impact of urban farms. Unlike other crops, growing shoots in small spaces is relatively easy. Urban farmers can grow these without relying on expensive equipment as well. Simple tools like a lightweight wheelbarrow and gardening shovel may be enough for the smallest of spaces. In food, microgreens have intense flavors that make them ideal garnishes.

Getting Started

If you’re interested in starting your own urban farm, you may want to begin by focusing on microgreens. You can grow them in traditional nursing trays arranged on a table or rack. When you first plant the seeds, you’ll cover the trays until germination occurs. Then you uncover them and place the plants under a light source. This provides the shoots with the nutrition they need to grow to their full potential. Popular microgreens to consider starting with include beets, kale, and radishes, among others.

Microgreens are also ideal for someone just starting their own urban farm thanks to their relatively short growing time. Most microgreens are usually ready to be harvested within two weeks (sometimes slightly earlier, sometimes slightly sooner) of being planted. This helps you learn how to grow them more efficiently. Instead of waiting a long period of time to find out if you made any mistakes in the process, you can quickly learn if your early growing efforts were successful.

Growing microgreens in potting soil also allows you to grow them as baby greens. This is yet another reason they’re beneficial to new urban farmers. Baby greens are lightweight and inexpensive. They’re a very budget-friendly option for someone who is just learning how to farm.

They can also help you earn money. If you develop your green thumb, you could sell your fresh microgreens to nearby restaurants and farmers markets.

Of course, you can also just eat them yourself. Enjoying the flavor of fresh produce is just one benefit of doing so. By growing your own produce in an urban farm, you’ll reduce the demand for produce from rural farms, helping to conserve resources and protect the environment as a result.